Power reliability improvement requires Nu 2.5bn

The districts of Zhemgang, Samtse, Samdrup Jongkhar, and several other regions in Bhutan continue to grapple with persistent power shortages and blackouts. In an effort to address these issues and enhance power reliability in affected areas, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MoENR), has estimated a total cost of Nu 2.5 bn.

Minister Loknath Sharma, MoENR revealed that the Bhutan Power Corporation Limited (BPCL) has allocated Nu 2.5 bn over the course of the next five years to tackle the issue of power reliability.

Notably, the ministry has already acquired essential equipment worth millions, such as feeder automation machines worth Nu 59 mn and switches worth Nu 12 mn, to support this initiative.

Regarding the frequent power shortages, Minister Sharma emphasized that the primary cause lies in power reliability and not transformers.

“Specifically, the issues stem from power supply lines and substations, prompting the need for improvements in these areas,” he said.

Furthermore, Lyonpo highlighted that there is no need to upgrade from single-phase to three-phase electricity, as transformers for these different phases differ in terms of design and cost. The addition of an extra layer in transformers for three-phase systems contributes to higher expenses.

Meanwhile, the decision to convert transformers to three-phase electricity is primarily demand-driven.

“A blanket approach of replacing all transformers with three-phase systems would lack economic value since single-phase electricity is sufficient for residential lighting. The need for three-phase power arises only when individuals or businesses require higher power consumption for operating machinery,” he said.

In response to demand for three-phase electricity to facilitate business operations, the BPCL evaluates each request and upgrades the power supply accordingly. The gradual upgrading of major villages and gewogs, based on capacity requirements, is part of the plan.

The minister noted that the cost of each transformer is approximately Nu 200,000, with around 160 transformers already in place, serving various capacities for both single-phase and three-phase electricity, amounting to Nu 87 bn.

“The government consistently allocates a budget or provision for around 100 transformers each year,” said the Lyonpo.

Considering all the necessary transformer upgrades to three-phase for medium voltage, the total cost is projected to be approximately Nu 400 bn. However, this transformation will be a continuous process, implemented gradually rather than all at once, to address power issues faced by individuals and communities throughout the country.

Meanwhile, during the parliamentary question hour, the Prime Minister (PM) was asked about power blackouts in certain areas.

The PM responded by acknowledging that there are still 8-9 villages without electricity and numerous places experiencing frequent blackouts.

However, he clarified that the cause of these blackouts is not insufficient power supply in the country but rather the lack of quality electrical equipment, resulting in short circuits during lightning storms.

He further emphasized the need to insulate and reinforce all wires to ensure greater strength and reliability. He reassured the public that the BPC is actively working towards making power more reliable in areas that face frequent blackouts.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu